How To Break Into Private Equity Without Banking Experience


How to get into private equity without banking experience

Have you ever envisioned a thriving career in private equity, only to feel discouraged by the conventional notion that it requires a background in banking? 

If so, you are not alone. Many aspiring finance professionals share this ambition, and your journey may be more achievable than you think.

Here is the secret: The world of private equity is evolving, and it is more accessible than ever before. You do not need to fit into a mold; you need to craft your career options on your own.

How to break into private equity without banking experience? 

Breaking into private equity without banking experience can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

  • One approach is to focus on gaining relevant experience in fields like management consulting, corporate development, or finance roles in established companies.

  • Networking within the private equity industrypursuing certifications like the CFA, and demonstrating strong financial modeling and analytical skills are key steps to make yourself an appealing candidate to potential employers.

In this guide, you will learn the strategies, insights, and steps you need to break into the private equity industry, even if you do not have prior banking experience. 

Whether you are a recent graduate, transitioning from another finance field, or simply charting a new career path, this guide is for you.

Actionable Steps to Break into Private Equity Without Banking Experience 

StepActionable StepsAdditional Tips and Information
1Educational QualificationObtain a bachelor’s degree in Finance, Economics, or Business.
Consider pursuing an MBA with a finance focus or specialized master’s programs like MFin or MFE.
2Private Equity CertificationsPursue the CFA designation for expertise in investment management and financial analysis.
Consider the Certified Private Equity Professional (CPEP) certification for specific PE training.
3Courses and Continuing EducationTake online courses in financial modeling, valuation, and private equity through platforms like Coursera, edX, or LinkedIn Learning.
Participate in professional development programs offered by industry associations.
4Private Equity Career Skills RequiredDevelop a strong grasp of financial concepts and tools such as financial modeling, valuation, and investment analysis.
Build industry expertise and the ability to identify trends and opportunities in specific sectors.
Gain experience in deal structuring, due diligence, negotiation, and deal closing.
Network within the finance industry to establish connections and mentors.
Enhance analytical, communication, and teamwork skills.
5How to Gain Practical ExperiencePursue internships, even at smaller and boutique PE firms, leveraging networking connections.
Emphasize your skills, such as financial modeling and data analysis, when applying for internships.
Consider entry-level positions in roles like research analyst, consulting, corporate finance, or startup finance.
Offer pro bono services to non-profit organizations or startups to gain experience.
Explore alternative routes, such as entrepreneurship, part-time courses, networking groups, or industry specialization.
Be patient and persistent in seeking practical experience.

How to Break Into Private Equity Without Banking Experience- Actionable Steps

How to break into private equity without banking experience

Step1: Educational qualification 

Education plays a pivotal role in preparing you for success in the dynamic world of private equity. 

In this section, you will learn about the relevant degree programs, certifications, and courses and help you chart your educational journey.

1. Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Economics, or Business

You can start with a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, business, or a related field from business school that will provide a fundamental understanding of financial concepts. 

2. Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

You can consider an MBA with a finance or investment focus, a common pathway to get into private equity. MBA programs often offer specialized courses in private equity and provide access to extensive networks.

Top business schools like Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the Wharton School often experience limited participation from private equity recruiters and top firms during their campus job fairs.

3. Master of Finance (MFin) or Master of Financial Engineering (MFE)

These specialized master’s programs focus on advanced financial concepts and quantitative analysis, making them highly relevant for private equity roles.

Step 2. Private equity certifications 

1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The CFA designation is widely recognized in the finance industry and is particularly relevant in private equity. It demonstrates expertise in investment management and financial analysis.

2. Certified Private Equity Professional (CPEP)

This specialized certification is designed for private equity professionals. It covers topics in private equity training such as deal structuring, due diligence, and fund management.

Step 3. Courses and continuing education

Private equity values not only academic qualifications but also practical experience and a commitment to ongoing learning and professional growth.

1. Online courses

Platforms like CourseraedX, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses in financial modeling, valuation, and private equity.

2. Professional development programs

Consider enrolling in programs offered by industry associations and organizations to stay updated with the latest trends and practices in private equity.

Since I have captured the relevant education PE career path that you can follow and the technical skills needed, let’s now shift our focus to cover something pretty important—how to gain practical experience.

Step 4: Private equity career skills required

Private equity is an exhilarating field, but like any journey, it requires the right qualifications and skill set to thrive. 

The interview and hiring process to get into private equity can often span three to six months and involves several steps, often numbering half a dozen or more.

This underscores the importance of gaining experience elsewhere before pursuing opportunities with private equity firms.

Let’s explore the qualifications of other firms that hold value in private equity:

1. Financial knowledge

  • Do you have a solid grasp of financial concepts and tools, such as financial modeling, valuation, and investment analysis?

2. Industry expertise

  • Are you knowledgeable about specific industries or sectors? 

  • Can you identify trends and opportunities within those domains?

3. Deal experience

  • Have you been involved in deal structuring or due diligence processes? 

  • What is your experience in negotiating and closing deals?

4. Networking

  • Do you have a professional network within the finance industry, or are you actively building one?

5. Analytical skills

  • Are you adept at critical thinking and problem-solving, particularly in complex financial scenarios?

6. Communication

  • How effective are your communication skills, both written and verbal, in conveying financial insights and strategies?

7. Teamwork

  • Have you worked collaboratively in diverse teams with different firms, and can you adapt to different team dynamics?

By assessing your qualifications and skill set, you can identify areas where you excel and areas that may require further development. 

Recognize that private equity is a dynamic field, and continuous learning and skill enhancement are essential for success. 

Whether you are already on the path to a private equity career or aspiring to enter this field, leveraging your strengths and addressing areas of growth will help you thrive in this rewarding industry.

Talking about addressing your strengths and areas of growth, the next section talks about the practical experience needed in this field.

Take a look.

Step 5: How to gain practical experience in private equity firms

Gaining practical experience in private equity is a pivotal step on your journey to becoming a proficient professional in this field. 

Even if you lack a traditional banking background, there are strategies to secure hands-on experience. 

In this section, you will learn various approaches, including internships, entry-level positions, and alternative routes, to help you pave your way.

1. Internships

Internships are often the gateway to the world of private equity. While some prestigious firms may have stringent criteria, many smaller and mid-sized firms are more open to candidates without banking experience. 

Here’s how to approach internships:

  • Networking: Leverage your academic network, attend industry events, and connect with alumni. Personal connections can often lead to internship opportunities.

  • Pitch your skills: Highlight your relevant skills, such as financial modeling, data analysis, or industry expertise. These skills can compensate for the absence of a traditional banking background.

  • Small and boutique firms: Consider applying to smaller funds or boutique private equity firms. They may be more willing to take on interns with diverse backgrounds.

  • Pro bono work: Offer your services pro bono to gain experience and build your resume with a good training ground. Non-profit organizations and startups often appreciate financial expertise.

Some of the top boutique investment banks, known for their specialized services and expertise in various sectors:

  1. Lazard

  2. Evercore Partners

  3. Moelis & Company

  4. Houlihan Lokey

  5. Greenhill & Co.

  6. Centerview Partners

  7. Perella Weinberg Partners

  8. PJT Partners

  9. Qatalyst Partners

  10. Jefferies & Company

These boutique investment banks often focus on mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, and providing advisory services to clients in specific industries, offering a more personalized approach compared to larger, full-service investment banks.

2. Entry-level positions

If internships are not an immediate option, entry-level positions can provide invaluable experience. Look for roles that offer exposure to financial analysis, due diligence, and deal execution. 

Here are some paths to consider:

  • Research analyst: Work as a research analyst for a financial research firm or consultancy. This role hones your analytical skills and market knowledge.

  • Consulting: Management or strategy consulting roles can provide exposure to financial modeling, strategic analysis, and industry insights.

  • Corporate finance: Positions in corporate finance departments can provide experience in financial analysis, budgeting, and strategic planning.

  • Startup finance: Joining a startup as a financial analyst can be a hands-on way to learn about business growth, funding, and investment.

At a certain stage of the interview process, you will have the opportunity to meet with the firm’s executives, and you have just one chance to leave a lasting impression.

However, well before reaching this point in the deal process, you will probably have developed a strong relationship with the private equity headhunters.

3. Alternative routes to private equity

If traditional routes do not align with your career path, consider alternative approaches to gain practical experience:

  • Venture into entrepreneurship: Start your own business or partner with entrepreneurs. Learning the ropes of entrepreneurship can provide valuable insights into deal sourcing and due diligence.

  • Part-time courses: Enroll in part-time finance courses or boot camps to enhance your skills and demonstrate your commitment to prospective employers.

  • Networking groups: Join local or online private equity networking groups. Engaging with industry professionals can lead to mentorship and hands-on opportunities.

  • Industry specialization: Develop expertise in a specific industry or sector. Focusing on a niche can make you a valuable asset to PE firms targeting that sector.

Gaining practical experience is a gradual process. It may involve a combination of strategies, perseverance, and a commitment to continuous learning.

Now that you know that you can break into private equity firms without banking experience, learn about the fundamentals of the scope of private equity firms hiring potential.

How Do Private Equity Firms Hire

At its core, private equity refers to investments made in privately held companies or assets, as opposed to publicly traded stocks. 

These investments are typically made by PE firms, which pool funds from investors, including high-net-worth individuals, institutional investors, and even pension funds

Private equity firms deploy these funds on cycle to acquire, invest in, or provide financing to non-public companies, with the ultimate goal of generating substantial returns.

How does a private equity firm pool funds?

Private equity involves pooling funds from various investors to acquire or invest in privately held companies, nurturing their growth and ultimately generating significant returns on investment when the companies prosper. 

  • Traditionally, the journey into private equity was paved with a prerequisite: banking experience

  • Aspiring professionals would enter the world of finance through investment banking roles, often at prestigious firms. 

This traditional path provided a solid foundation in financial analysis, deal structuring, and due diligence—skills considered essential in private equity.

However, the finance industry is undergoing a profound evolution, reshaping the route to private equity. 

While the banking experience was once the golden ticket, the demands of the modern financial landscape have evolved. 

PE hiring needs in investment banking experience

The PE hiring needs in investment banking experience can be attributed to several key factors:

1. Diverse investment strategies

PE firms are expanding their horizons.

They are diversifying their investment strategies beyond traditional leveraged buyouts (LBOs) to include growth equity, venture capital, and distressed asset investing.

2. Technological advancements

The advent of technology has democratized access to financial information and analysis tools. As a result, aspiring professionals have greater access to resources for skill development.

3. Entrepreneurial spirit

Private equity is increasingly valuing entrepreneurial thinking and diverse perspectives.

Firms seek professionals who can think outside the box, identify emerging opportunities, and drive innovation.

Today, the private equity landscape is more inclusive than ever before.

While banking experience remains valuable, it is no longer the exclusive gateway to a private equity career. 

Aspiring professionals from diverse backgrounds, including:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Consulting and other finance-related roles are finding their way into PE firms.

The demand for fresh perspectives, creative deal structuring, and specialized industry knowledge has led most private equity firms to recognize the value of candidates with unique skills and experiences.

This shift has opened doors for non-traditional entrants, creating a more dynamic and innovative private equity industry.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Can entrepreneurship experience help me break into private equity without a banking background?

Absolutely. Entrepreneurship experience is highly valued in private equity. 

Running your own business demonstrates skills in deal sourcing, risk management, and strategic decision-making. 

A PE firm appreciates you, who understand the challenges of building and scaling a business, making the entrepreneurial experience a strong asset, even investment bankers without a traditional banking background.

My Exclusive Insights for You

In closing, let’s recap the essential takeaways from our guide on breaking into private equity without banking experience:

  • Breaking into private equity without a traditional banking background is not just a dream; it’s an attainable reality. 

  • The finance industry is evolving, opening doors for individuals with diverse skills and experiences.

  • Education serves as a strong foundation for success in private equity. 

  • Pursue relevant degrees, certifications, and continuous learning to enhance your knowledge and skills.

  • Gain hands-on experience through internships, entry-level positions, or alternative routes. 

  • Networking, showcasing your skills, and seeking opportunities in smaller firms can be your path to the private equity world.

Your journey may require patience and perseverance. Stay committed to your goals, adapt to changes, and seize every opportunity for growth. Also, breaking into private equity without banking experience must align with your Inner GPS

Suppose you need personal Inner GPS Career Coaching to know whether breaking into private equity aligns with your Inner GPS. In that case, you can book a session for the same and get absolute clarity.

In conclusion, your unique skills and determination can set you on the path to success in private equity. 

Keep pushing boundaries, seizing opportunities, and writing your own success story in the world of private equity.


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